Thursday, October 20, 2005

In the grip of running monomania

This week, my running schedule spiraled away from me. By Wednesday I hadn't yet tackled my first of three scheduled weekday runs.

I can blame it on a slumber party this weekend with my niece and nephew, which left me so exhausted that I've existed in a catatonic state for the last few days, lying near motionless on the couch after work surrounded by the detritus of the natural phenomenon known as Children: empty string cheese wrappers, crusty yogurt containers, scissors, yarn, some random Lego's underfoot and enough juice and milk in my refrigerator slowly turning sour to use as a science demonstration at the next sleep-over.

My nephew attempted to tutor me in the nuances of Star Wars, but gave up pretty quickly when he realized that the brain of his doddering aunt was just not quick enough to comprehend the vast and conceptually rich minefield of the Star Wars cosmology.

And my, niece, well, all she wanted to do was ride around on the scooter. She was rabid for it. I live in fear of receiving a call from her mother informing me that due to my egregious and pernicious influence, my niece has run away with a 4th grade Harley-Davidson gang.

Seriously, I don't know how parents do it. All I know is that any kids of my own will be allowed to run up and down the streets wildly if it means they will exhaust themselves by 8 o'clock and fall immediately to sleep. Baths? Why, dirt and stink are character builders.

But I am here to tell you that I have triumphed over the running schedule that looked to be slipping away by doing the heretofore unthinkable: I have run twice in one day. Not only did I run twice, but I did so while grievously wounded.

I ran Wednesday morning for 30 minutes, and ran hills Wednesday night for 45 minutes. And in between, in between these runs I had minor outpatient surgery.

I know you want to see the picture, so here ya go (and if you're in the mood for more disturbing photos, check out Mia's beastly boob blister):

So what I got cut out from my 'pit was, according to the doctor, either an infected hair follicle or an infected fat gland. Or something like that, I'm not too clear on the details. Really, though, how does one get an infection of this sort? I kept pestering the doctor to tell me the truth I was sure he was withholding: wasn't it in fact true that this infection stemmed from a weird sweating pattern on my behalf -- nay, a rare sweating disorder! -- that he was going to write up in the annals of a medical journal to great professional acclaim? But no, all the information he would provide was a vague and deeply unsatisfying explanation of "it's just something that happens, it's rather common really. So hush your infernal chattering." (He didn't really say that last bit, but it was definitely implied.)

Regardless, I feel like I've crossed over some psychological boundary. So this is what thinking outside the box feels like. Exercising twice in one day! I can feel my brain stretching to new dimensions as we speak. Enlightenment can't be far off now.

Here are some pictures of my trip to the Bay Area a few weeks ago.

I had lots of impressions I wanted to share of that trip, but mostly I think I'll just comment on how much I enjoyed walking all over the place. That, and the excellent nightlife. In the middle of the week I got to see one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters (Jill Sobule) and then the next night a fat-positive Burlesque show. And! Lots of places had a sliding-scale entry fee. I would be a total nightlife junkie if I lived in a place where the nightlife was so accessible and affordable.

Well, ok, I'll also tell you about going to services at an activist church (Glide Memorial) where I actually was moved to tears by the service. This never happens to me in church, but I was feeling a bit adrift about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina and the service was exactly on this topic and it was the perfect release. I got to hold hands with and hug strangers! And sing Amazing Grace. I'm a sucker for Amazing Grace.

Then later in the week I went out and hung out naked at an all-female communal bathhouse, which was exactly what I think everybody should do once a week. I really think if we got to check out one another's naked bodies more often we (as a society) wouldn't have as many hang-ups about physical appearance.

The public transportation system got me around town (and out of town) fine. And glory-be, there were bikes and scooters everywhere, along with tons of bike and motorcycle parking.

A highlight of the trip was an epic bike ride I took through Golden Gate Park, and then over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. It was only 40 miles, which normally wouldn't be such a hardship, but good god, the hills kicked my butt. It was still a great day, though.

It was foggy and cold riding across the bridge:

But I swear to god the minute I got across the bridge into Sausalito, it was sunny with blue skies everywhere. Weird.

The ferry ride back to the city went past Alcatraz:

I loved the vegetation I saw, so different from what grows in Texas. This wonderfully violet flowering plant is called, I believe, a Princess bush:

The ubiquitous shot of the Painted Ladies:

Sunny and lovely Delores Park:

A vineyard I visited with my aunt in Redwood City:

Cable Car lines:

Art cars in Berkley make me happy:

The bike search continues, but now I'm obsessed with cyclocross bikes, which fall somewhere between road and off-road bikes, meant to be used in a sport that combines running and biking. Pure genius!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bike Lust

The past few weeks I've been swooning over some of the bikes I've considered as replacements for my kidnapped, long-lost and lamented bike. What I'm looking for is a super-bike, one that I can use for all of the following: daily commuting, completing century rides and other longer-distance recreational rides in relative comfort, hauling groceries and library books, riding on bumpy and pot-holed streets, and (in my fondest dreams) bike camping.

My research suggests that I should look into getting a touring road bike, rather that a sport road bike (putting aside the fact, for the moment, that my ass has never actually been on a road bike before). And, of course, my frugal nature is convinced that I can find this sterling bike at some bargain basement price.

Here is my epitome of this super-bike, the achingly lovely but astronomically out-of-my-price range, Rivendell Atlantis:

Here is a bike apparently built along the same rugged design lines as the Atlantis, but with a cheaper price point due to the lack of something beyond my ken called "lugs", but still pretty much beyond my price range. Part of the reason I swoon for it, though, is the awesome name, the Surly Long-Haul Trucker:

Fuji makes a pretty touring bike (and you know the degree of pretty is critical to this decision):

There are some touring bikes that seem too heavy-duty, though, like this one from Koga:

The guy at the bike shop this weekend had me look at two entry level sport road bikes, which I suppose I could outfit with racks, though I worry that they may not accept rough usage.
Here's the 2005 Specialized Dolce (a women-specific design):

And here's the 2005 Giant OCR3:

One of the cheapest (around $500) entry-level road bikes is made by Raleigh, to whom I feel some brand loyalty as they manufactured my beloved workhorse. Here's the Raleigh Sport:

Of course, I could chuck it all and go with the Xtracyle, which gets points for sheer utilitarian functionality, which makes me swoon in an entirely different way:

Hey y'all, I went crazy a few weeks ago and signed up for the half-marathon training program with the local FIT group. I'm on some kind of streak, because for the past three weeks I've completed every training and group run on my schedule. I even bought some Body Glide that has revolutionized my heretofore miserable running-short experience.

In a few weeks, the training schedule calls for a 7 mile run, which is virgin running territory for me. I try not to look at that entry in the calendar. I might be a wee bit scared.

I am, of course, one of the slowest runners in my training group, about a 12-13 minute mile. But, what can I say, it just feels better to run slow. I have more energy, I enjoy it more, I get less aches and stomach cramping, I can indulge in a gossipy conversation with my running partners. Works for me.

The interesting thing about the FIT program is that it calls for three training runs during the week, none of which seem to last more than 40 minutes, and then a long run each Saturday. Even the marathoners are training like this. I wonder if this is a controversial training plan? I mean, it certainly works great in terms of scheduling, but I wonder if it's an effective training approach. I know my previous running coach didn't particularly like the FIT philosophy, but I also know that my friend Nic finished the marathon last year with this program, and so have others nationwide.

But I'm happy that I'm back into running. I feel better, physically. I still have some shin splint problems, but I've been icing the shin so maybe that will help.

Austin Freescale Half-Marathon 2006, here I come!